Nigeria: Results Of State Assemblies’ Elections Trickle In

By Paul Ejime, PANA Staff Correspondent, 8 December 1997

LAGOS, Nigeria (PANA) — Early indications Sunday showed that the United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP), was leading its four other rivals in Lagos in the state assemblies’ polls held Saturday, which was marked by general low-voter turnout.

According to the preliminary results, the party may have captured 10 of the total 15 constituency seats. It had clinched more than 300 of the total 776 chairmanship seats in the March 15 local council elections.

Reports from the western state Oyo, however, showed that the Democratic Party of Nigeria was in the lead with 16 constituencies, closely followed by UNCP with 13, from a total 32 seats there.

At stake in the 36-state assemblies’ polls are 989 seats, which featured more than 4,500 candidates from the five government-approved political parties.

The other parties are the Grassroots Democratic Movement, Congress for National Consensus and the National Centre Party of Nigeria. But as the other results were being awaited, political observers said it was too early to predict the overall winner. They blamed the low voter-turn out on the gen eral apathy among the more than 55 million registered voters.

Political analysts have also noted that most of the candidates are not known to the electorate. Some party officials claimed that the one week allowed for campaigning was insufficient.

Saturday’s polls, part of a series under the military regime’s transition to democracy programme, scheduled to end October 1998, are to be followed in April by elections for the federal legislature and then the governorship and crucial presidential elections, both slated for August.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the National Electoral commission of Nigeria, Sumner Dagogo-Jack, conceding possible lapses in Saturday’s exercise, has, however, said these would be corrected in subsequent polls.

“What I have seen is re-assuring and peaceful. It is an opportunity for democracy to thrive in our country,” he told reporters after monitoring the polls in Kaduna, northern Nigeria.

One noticeable innovation was the use of transparent ballot boxes, which the commission chairman said was an indication of government’s transparency in the transition programme.

There was no voting in six troubled council areas of Ife-Modakeke in western Nigeria and Warri in mid-western state of Delta because of communal violence. Otherwise polling was generally peaceful and orderly but there were reported incidents in some areas.

From Oyo state is a report that a top official of the Electoral Commission was suspended on the orders of the military authorities over alleged electoral fraud.

There were also reported arrests of polling officials in Anambra in the east and Akwa Ibom in the southeast over alleged poll malpractices.

In Benin, capital of the mid-western state of Edo, Sunday Champion newspaper reported that “desperate politicians” allegedly hijacked a ballot box after voting, spilling the contents on the way as they sped off in a car. The matter is under investigation.

Also from Badagry, near Lagos, five under-aged youths, including a girl, were reportedly arrested while attempting to cast ballot. voting is open to Nigerians of 18 years old and above. The comprehensive results from Saturday’s election are expected from later in the week.

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